When President Barack Obama and his groupies in the media say that Mitt Romney is out of touch with average Americans, they want us to believe that the president is in touch with average Americans. But why should we?
Some people assume that a presidential candidate with a privileged upbringing, personal wealth, or wealthy friends can’t be in touch with average Americans (particularly if that person is a Republican; Democrats like FDR or any of the Kennedys didn’t have to worry about being tagged as out of touch).
Based on this simplistic definition, both Mitt Romney and the president qualify as out of touch. The president had a privileged upbringing (he hobnobbed with the rich and well-connected while in Indonesia, and his family used their connections to get him into the exclusive Punahou School in Honolulu), has amassed millions of dollars in wealth, has been living like a multibillionaire on the taxpayer dime, and has many rich friends.
What’s actually important in determining whether a presidential candidate is out of touch is whether the individual understands the concerns of average Americans and cares enough to offer proposals to address those concerns. Each year during the president’s term in office, average Americans have seen their incomes drop (the median income is now below what it was in 1996, according to the Census Bureau). More than 23 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed. The recovery from the last recession, which officially ended in June 2009, has been the feeblest recovery since the Great Depression.
Mitt Romney has offered tested, effective proposals to get our economy moving and people back to work. The president? He created a Council on Jobs and Competitiveness to give him new ideas on how to create jobs but hasn’t met with the council since January 17 because, as White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said, he’s “got a lot on his plate.” He needs time to play golf, joke with David Letterman, and be “eye candy” for “The View” gang.
Instead of proposing new ideas, the president has promised to continue his same, ineffective economic policies, this time packaged as “new economic patriotism” (a slogan coined by European politicians to make people feel morally obligated to approve governmental control over their economic lives).
Also important in determining whether a presidential candidate is out of touch is whether the individual respects what is important to average Americans. We know that Mitt Romney respects individuals who start a business, make religion part of their lives, and believe in American exceptionalism.
The president? Not so much. He’s told business owners who’ve taken financial risks and put in long hours of work to get their businesses off the ground that they shouldn’t take pride in their success because “you didn’t build that.” He’s dismissively described people who feel that belief in God can inspire them to better themselves and make their daily lives more meaningful and enjoyable as “clinging” to religion because they’re “bitter” with their lot in life. He’s put down those who think this country is exceptional by saying that everyone likes to think of his or her own country as special.
It shouldn’t be surprising that the president is out of touch with average Americans. To keep in touch, he’d have to be willing to consider their views. Not only does the president disregard what others have to say (as described by Ed Klein in The Amateur), but, as former Obama adviser Neera Tanden recently observed, “[H]e really doesn’t like people.”
David Gibberman, a lawyer, writes about legal and financial matters for professionals, college students, and the general public.